Home Mind & Brain Is It Rare to Dream in Black and White?

Is It Rare to Dream in Black and White?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Dreams have always been a source of fascination, offering a glimpse into our subconscious minds and sparking endless curiosity. Most people dream in colour, but a surprising number experience black-and-white dreams. So, is it rare to dream in black and white?

The prevalence of black-and-white dreams

Research shows that black-and-white dreams aren’t as rare as you might think. While most modern studies reveal that the majority of people dream in colour, this hasn’t always been the case. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, studies found that nearly 75% of Americans reported dreaming in black and white.

Fast forward to today, and less than 12% of people under 25 report having black-and-white dreams. This shift suggests that external factors, like the media we consume and cultural changes, play a significant role in how we dream.

Cultural and historical influences

The type of media we consume has a fascinating impact on our dreams. In the mid-20th century, black-and-white television and films were the norm. During this time, many people reported dreaming in black and white. As colour TV and movies became more common, the number of people reporting monochromatic dreams decreased.

This trend shows how our environment influences our subconscious. Our brains are constantly processing sensory information from our daily lives, and this information shapes our dreams. The transition from black-and-white to colour media likely influenced the decline in black-and-white dreams over the years.

The science of dreaming

To understand why some dreams are in black and white, we need to look at how the brain processes sensory information during sleep. Dreams occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, which is characterized by increased brain activity and vivid dreaming. During REM sleep, the visual cortex, which processes visual information, is very active.

The colour, or lack thereof, in our dreams may be linked to how our brain interprets sensory information during REM sleep. While the exact mechanisms are still unclear, researchers believe that memory consolidation and external stimuli influence dream content. Differences in brain function and sensory processing among individuals also contribute to the variety of dream experiences.

Psychological and neurological factors

Several psychological and neurological factors can influence whether a person dreams in black and white or colour. Age plays a significant role; older adults, especially those who grew up with black-and-white media, are more likely to report monochromatic dreams.

Psychological conditions like depression and anxiety can also affect dream content. People with depression, for example, are more likely to experience black-and-white dreams due to changes in brain chemistry and emotional processing. Neurological conditions, such as colour blindness, naturally influence dream experiences as well, with those affected often dreaming within their limited colour perception.

Personal anecdotes and subjective experiences

Scientific studies provide valuable insights, but personal anecdotes and subjective experiences add depth to our understanding. Many people share unique stories of their black-and-white dreams, describing them as vivid, detailed, and sometimes nostalgic. These personal accounts highlight the diversity of dream experiences and the deeply personal nature of dreaming.

For some, black-and-white dreams hold specific emotional or symbolic significance. The absence of colour can create a dramatic atmosphere, emphasising certain aspects of the dream. In some cases, these dreams may be tied to particular memories or periods in a person’s life, adding another layer of meaning.


Dreaming in black and white is less common than dreaming in colour, but it isn’t exceedingly rare. Over time, cultural and environmental factors like media consumption have changed the prevalence of black-and-white dreams. The science of dreaming shows that the brain’s processing of sensory information, along with psychological and neurological factors, shapes our dreams. Personal stories and experiences further enrich our understanding of this intriguing phenomenon.

Dreams, whether in colour or black and white, offer a unique window into our subconscious. They reveal the workings of our inner worlds and connect us to a shared human experience. The next time you drift into a black-and-white dream, remember that you’re part of a rich tapestry of human experience, where every dream holds its own special meaning.

Jasmine Truttero is a freelance writer and psychology enthusiast who loves exploring the mysteries of the human mind and sharing insights on dreams and subconscious experiences.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd